2020: A year
This has been a crazy year, but honestly an exciting one for me and my family. We've lived through multiple natural disasters, moved, changed jobs, survived a pandemic, had a new baby join us, and tried to normalize all of the wild shifts that everyone else is living through. It's been wild. Just ask me when the last time I rode my bike with another human being was. It's been a year.
If you are here for the book reviews… feel free to jump to them. For now let's talk about other things that happened this year.
Early in the year we welcomed a son to our family! Little did we know that the last “normal” thing that we did would be having my mom join us for a week after his birth. It was great, to be able to take some time out from work and help around the house.
It also gave me some time to think about where I was, and where I wanted to be.
I had been at Instructure for a little over 4 years, had grown from a Sr. Engineer to a Team Lead and then an Engineering Manger running 4 teams on 2 continents. I'd helped launch a new product on a deadline, exercised my architectural chops, and become a much better software engineer over that time. I'd found strong mentors, and learned a lot about what I was good at. I had started shortly before Inst went public, gone through that process, watched the stock with a little too much attention, and now Inst was in the process of being acquired by a private equity firm.
I had watched weeks before as half the engineers that reported up through me were laid off. I had sat through their meetings with HR, because they deserved to have someone they knew in those meetings. They deserved to know that this wasn't about them, or their performance.
That had been the week before I left for paternity leave.
Needless to say when I was approached on LinkedIn by Shiv Gaglani about openings at Osmosis… I was interested. It was time for something different, and I had mostly plateued at Instructure with little more room for career growth. Don't get me wrong. I still had a lot I could have learned there. It had just become clear that I would likely be where I was at for a long time if I decided to stay.
So, I took the leap and joined Osmosis!
While all this was happening we decided that with two kids it was time to move into a larger house. We had been in our 1925 bungalow for over 6 years and it was bitter sweet trying to rush through final home projects so we could get it on the market. Before we were even on the market we had found our new place and had an offer going.
Then, the lockdown started. We waded through offers (lots of them) and started moving forward with a buyer. It was looking great. And then, the earthquake happened in SLC.
My first earthquake was terrifying. It started right after we woke up with our youngest, and it took us a few moments to realize what was going on. We raced out of our room, grabbed our daughter and huddled under a door frame as the house swayed for what seemed like an eternity. It took me months to not jump at every truck that drove by. And weeks to be able to sleep through the night. Aftershocks are awful.
We were lucky though. Minimal damage to the house, and while the first buyer fell through we had the home under contract and sold within a week of the earthquake.
Moving during a pandemic is weird. It took us all day because we couldn't relaly pull in a group to do it. And then getting to know your neighbors is weird when you only see each other from a long distance, or through masks. We have great neighbors and have slowly started integrating into the community, but it is still weird not being able to invite people into our home.
With the change of jobs came a shift to leading a fully remote team. I need to write more about this… but I really like it. I miss some parts of being in an office, but the advantages are great, and it lets me really put my team's lives first. Which is awesome. I still think the best book on this isMIT Press’ Distributed Work which I am still reading. So many highlights and notes.
Hopefully in the future I can get around to writing more about the things I am learning in my new role. Just need to find time for it.
In the meantime here is everything I read/consumed last year:
Becoming - Michelle Obama
Excellent peak into the world of the first family. Also really good discussion of women's roles in our society, and a reminder of who strange our current presidency has been. The more I learn about the Obama’s the more respect I ahve for them.
Essentialism - Greg McKeown
Second time through this one. Essential reading for organizations and people. Key take away: figure out how you contribute the most and do only that when possible.
Rage - Bob Woodward
Fear was excellent, Rage was mindblowing. Bob Woodward doing amazing journalism.
Fair Play - Eve Rodsky
Read this with Katie. Still trying to fully apply it, but it has helped clarify some conversations in our home about responsibilities.
Trillion Dollar Coach - Eric Schmidt
Good, but I may have to re-read in the future since I don't really remember it
Creativity, Inc. - Ed Catmull
This one made it onto my required reading list for team leads. There are so many powerful insights into building innovative organizations in this book. Been slowly incorporating parts of it into Osmosis Eng and Product cultures all year.
Principles - Ray Dalio
It's a classic for a reason. There are a lot of powerful ideas here about building companies, cultures, and processes. One of my key takeaways was that it is important to automate your decision making. I've always been a fan of rubrics in hiring, but the idea of using them for as many decisions as possible is powerful in freeing up resources and creating reproducible results.
The New Jim Crow - Michelle Alexander
This was my second crack at making it through this one. It is heavy. And important. The historical grounding in the begining walks carefully through the transition from chatel slavery to mass incarceration. It's a powerful book, with a strong central argument. A must read.
Work Rules - Laszlo Bock
How Google handles HR. It is really really interesting and worth the read. It goes beyond this into how to develop people and yourself, with deliberate practice being something that is too often skipped over among Software Engineers. Highly recommend this book.
How to Be an Antiracist - Ibram X. Kendi
Eye opening. Another must read.
White Fragility - Robin DiAngelo
Really really good. If you have to choose between this and How to be an Antiracist, go with How to Be an Antiracist. If you can read both do.
Smarter Faster Better - Charles Duhigg
Probably need to re-read this. I remember it being really good. But can’t remember any specific details from it.
Talking to Strangers - Malcolm Gladwell
A really interesting counter point to How to Be An Antiracist. Sort of the pop-psychology side of human interactions.
Dare to Lead - Brene Brown
Another good book by Brene. I am not remembering anything particular from it, other then the need for emotional intelligence in leaders.
The Mamba Mentality - Kobe Bryant
Probably one of the best books on becoming excellent out there. Are you willing to pay the cost? “If you really want to be great at something, you have to truly care about it. If you want to be great in a particular area, you have to obsess over it. A lot of people say they want to be great, but they’re not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve greatness. They have other concerns, whether important or not, and they spread themselves out. That’s totally fine. After all, greatness is not for everybody.”
Go Set a Watchman - Harper Lee
Read this one early in the year before George Floyd. There are parts of this book that rang extremely true. It is an excellent extension of To Kill A Mockingbird from Scout’s perspective. It wrestles with the casual racism of The South. It wrestles with the judgements we pass on others. It requires its characters to be complex. And in one of its pivotal moments Scout’s uncle insists that she is a 'lowercase b bigot' who insists that everyone must have her perspective. As opposed to an uppercase B Bigot who is biased against others for who they are. A powerful concept, despite the things he is using it to rationalize.
Bad Blood - John Carreyrou
Possibly the most terrifying book I read all year. The story of Theranos is insane.
Deep Survival - Laurence Gonzales
While it is specifically about survival, it has strong application to on-call, and systems architecture. The most important idea for me was that rescue should come as a suprise to our daily routine in survival situations. This has been a useful concept for me this year, with 2 natural disasters and a pandemic.
Predator's Gold - Philip Reeve
Popcorn book. It was pretty ok, but I did not make it beyond the 2nd book in the series.
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie
Ancillary Sword - Ann Leckie
Ancillary Mercy - Ann Leckie
The Ancillary series is so so good. Some of my favorite Sci-Fi ever. I am not going to say anything else. If you like Sci-Fi you should read them all.
The Lean Startup - Eric Ries
The book on LEAN. It is as good as you have heard.
Team of Rivals - Doris Kearns Goodman
Lincoln had a cabinet made up of political enemies and rivals. He forged them into a solid team that worked together through an actual civil war. A powerful look at one of our most interesting and influential presidents. Also a good book on leadership.
You Never Forget You're First - Alexis Cole
A somewhat snarky biography of George Washington, that reminds us that our founding fathers where men not angels. Could have dug more into Washington’s relationship with race, but does a good job exposing the darker corners of one of our greatest presidents.
Rhythm of War - Brandon Sanderson
The fourth book in the Stormlight Archive. It is really really good.
Turn the Ship Around - L. David Marquet
Re-read this with my team leads. It is hands down one of the best books on building organizations with high ownership, that are values driven. A must read for anyone leading a team.
The Shepherd's Life - James Rebank
It will have you wanting to move to the lake country and start a farm. Beautiful prose. Powerful ideas. Interesting discussion on the challenges that face both governments and individuals in time of crisis. A beautiful reminder of things that matter.
The Book of Mormon - Various
Safe to say no other single book has had as much impact on me as a leader, husband, father, and person. Love this book.
Winnie The Pooh - A. A. Milne
It is Winnie The Pooh!
Harry Potter and the Sorcer's Stone - J. K. Rowling
Nothing to really add here? It is way better then I though it was as a teenager. Read it with my daughter.
Release It! - Michael Nygard
Want to understand the baseline for modern ops and development practices? Read this. Want to understand how to speed development? Read this. Combine it with Google’s hackable projects and you have the outlines and details of a modern development workflow. Now you just have to implement it.
Building Microservices - Sam Newman
Great read on scoping, building, deploying, and testing microservices. Pact and other tools are some of the most valuable takeaways here.
Building Micro-Frontends - Luca Mezzalira
I still stand by this being the future of front end. The logical application of service oriented architecture to the front end is the frontier we have not yet explored.
Articles that were standouts:
We read the paper that forced Timnit Gebru out of Google. Here’s what it says.
This VP is Doing Things Differently in the Product Org — Here’s His Playbook | First Round Review
Amazon S3 Update – Strong Read-After-Write Consistency | AWS News Blog
The Network Effects Manual: 13 Different Network Effects (and counting)
Falsehoods programmers believe about addresses
Opinion: The new Texas 'Spindletop' might be ready to blow - CNN
6 things we can learn from how women leaders have handled the pandemic
Are Americans the most confident people in the world? - BBC Reel
Is Static Analysis Able to Identify Unnecessary Source Code? | ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology
BICEPS — PALOMA MEDINA
How Khan Academy Successfully Handled 2.5x Traffic in a Week
How to safely use GitHub Actions in organizations - Human Who Code
Kimmy Paluch of Beta Boom: 5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society | by Authority Magazine | Authority Magazine | Medium
Services By Lifecycle - Wide Awake Developer
Antisemitism in History: The Era of Nationalism, 1800–1918 | The Holocaust Encyclopedia
A checklist for OK OKRs
Scaling in Step with Your Core Values - Hatchpad
The amazing tool that women in the White House used to fight gender bias
James Mattis Denounces President Trump, Describes Him as a Threat to the Constitution
Optimizing costs in GitHub Actions - DEV Community
‘Give Away Your Legos’ and Other Commandments for Scaling Startups
In the Office or at Home, People Still Matter Most - Bridge
‘Please come help us’: New York begs for medical workers
Don’t Mute, Get a Better Headset – Matt Mullenweg
Dealing With Surprising Human Emotions: Desk Moves
Above the Line, Below the Line: The resilience of Internet-facing systems relies on what is below the line of representation.
Mistakes and Discoveries While Cultivating Ownership
Eradicating Non-Determinism in Test
Beware SAFe (the Scaled Agile Framework for Enterprise), an Unholy Incarnation of Darkness
My Approach to 1-on-1s
Now for the podcasts:
Semisonic - Closing Time - Song Exploder
Experiencing God Through the Scriptures | An Interview with Jared Halverson - Leading Saints Podcast
Episode #26: "Music Time With Dad" - Richest Men in Town
Katie’s first podcast episode! This is a powerful episode that shows the many reasons that I fell in love this this amazing woman. She throws out powerful life lessons and spiritual insights. You should listen to it.
No Special Duty - Radiolab
If this episode does not make you scratch your head then nothing will. Nickel tour: courts have ruled that the police have no special duty to protect the lives of citizens. Crazy.
How to Keep Your Ward Looking Forward, Not Backward | An Interview with Mark Johnson - Leading Saints Podcast
DataOps: The Basics and Why It Matters - The New Stack Makers
#154: Double Down on What's Working - Seeking Wisdom
Getting Real about Come Follow Me | An Interview with Ganel-Lyn Condie and Scott Sorensen - Leading Saints Podcast
410- Policing the Open Road - 99% Invisible
Why No One Talks About 'The Irish Slaves' - Stuff You Missed in History Class
Because they didn’t exist.
A Social Prescription - Hidden Brain
Strengthening Your Goal Setting | An Interview with Skye Fagrell - Leading Saints Podcast
Rebel Talent - a16z Podcast
Looking Toward the State of Security in DevOps in 2020 - The New Stack Makers
Terri Maue: Dad's Legacy - This I Believe
The Weight | Featuring Ringo Starr and Robbie Robertson | Playing For Change | Song Around The World
In Too Deep - Sum 41 (Country Version)
Everything by this guy.
Rhiannon Giddens - Wayfaring Stranger
At The Purchaser's Option - Rhiannon Giddens at Augusta Vocal Week 2016
Rhiannon is one of the most interesting Banjo players out there right now. Bringing the instrument back to its African routes, while playing beautiful, powerful music. This song in particular is powerful in reminding us of the evils of slave trade and the dehuminization that it represents
Mind the Gap with Malone Mukwende
[HOONIGAN] Gymkhana 2020: Travis Pastrana Takeover; Ultimate Hometown Shred in an 862hp Subaru STI
Look, I am an STI fan boy. And this is madness.
Elder Dale G. Renlund: Our Brother’s Keeper
The Christ Child: A Nativity Story | #LightTheWorld
Netflix Culture: Freedom and Responsibility
Netflix Culture Explained: What is Feedback Like at Netflix?
Netflix Culture Explained: Flexibility Around Work and Vacation
Netflix Culture Explained: Working Cross-Functionally
AWS re:Inforce 2019: Using AWS Control Tower to Govern Multi-Account AWS Environments (GRC313-R)
AWS re:Invent 2019: Architecting security & governance across your landing zone (SEC325-R2)
"DEBATE NIGHT 2020!" — A Bad Lip Reading of the First Presidential Debate of 2020
WE'RE ALL DOOMED - Trump vs. Biden ft. "Weird Al" Yankovic
Nailing your Nutrition Plan - A Simple Trick to Fuel Properly
A video about an event a friend put on a long time ago
INSANE BIKE RACE AROUND GO-KART TRACK!
Last Man Standing | GCN Take On The Fixed Gear Rad Race
Create Animated Titles with Procreate and iPad Pro
Gorewood Canoe - Transformation
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